DOC Institute Awards



Breakthrough Award

The DOC Institute is pleased to announce the winners of the third annual DOC Institute Breakthrough Development Award, sponsored by the Rogers Group of Funds and the CBC.

The 2021 Breakthrough Development Award was presented to filmmakers Erin Byrnes and Maria Markina. Selected by a jury of industry experts, Byrnes and Markina each received a $20,000 cash prize from the Rogers Group of Funds, a development deal from the CBC, and mentorship and professional development support from the DOC Institute.

Erin Byrnes won for her film “The Stand” about a remarkable trans advocate who is trying to protect LGBTQ+ people from hate crimes by building trust between her community and the justice system. Maria Markina’s “Harkness” follows an eccentric musician who is determined to stake his claim to being one of the world’s greatest musicians after having spent 30 years composing music in isolation. To learn more about their projects, please see our press release here.

The DOC Institute Breakthrough Lab is made possible by the generous support of our founding partner Ontario Creates. Participants have gone on to successfully launch their careers and have been associated with prestigious accolades, winning Canadian Screen Awards, landing on the Academy Award shortlist, and receiving the Rogers Best Canadian Feature from the TFCA, the richest film prize in Canada. These exceptional filmmakers include Hugh Gibson (The Stairs), Shasha Nakhai (Take Light), and Sherien Barsoum (Babe, I Hate to Go).


DOC Institute Honours Awards

The DOC Institute Honours recognizes and celebrates the community of professionals working in the Canadian documentary field. The annual Honours are community-driven, with nominations that are submitted nationally by current DOC members, and a jury of industry professionals selecting the recipients.

On the eve of December 10, 2020, film and documentary industry professionals, and esteemed media alike joined together virtually to celebrate the 7th annual DOC Institute Honours Celebration. Hosted over a Zoom session by multi-disciplinary media personality Garvia Bailey, and attended by over 100 people. Robin Mirsky presented the Rogers-DOC Luminary Award to Canadian documentary/industry veteran and Indigenous cinema icon, Alanis Obomsawin.

On May 11th, 2021 film and documentary industry professionals joined together at the Documentary Organization of Canada’s Annual General Meeting, to virtually celebrate presentation of the BMO-DOC Vanguard Award to mid-career filmmaker, Lisa Jackson. The BMO-Vanguard Award is reserved for mid-career creatives and previous winners include Millefiore Clarkes, Amar Wala, Victoria Lean, and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril.

We are looking forward to another strong pool of nominations from across the country in future years!

The Rogers-DOC Luminary Award recognizes a person working in documentaries or is associated with the documentary industry. This person not only excels in their position but also is actively involved in supporting Canada’s robust documentary community. The Rogers-DOC Luminary Award is given to an individual who embodies the creative spirit of the Canadian documentary tradition and displays generosity by supporting the next generation of doc-makers through mentorship, working behind the scenes to ensure that the genre remains strong for generations to come.

Rogers-DOC Luminary Award is generously supported by the Rogers Group of Funds


One of the most acclaimed Indigenous directors in the world, Alanis Obomsawin directed her first documentary for the NFB, Christmas Moose Factory in 1971. Since then, she has created more than 50 films with the NFB-including landmark documentaries like Incident at Restigouche (1984) and Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993). The Abenaki director was named a Companion of the Order of Canada – its highest distinction in 2019.


The BMO-DOC Vanguard Award is given to an emerging or mid-career professional filmmaker, who demonstrates a keen artistic sensibility and forward-thinking approach to the craft, with the potential to lead the next generation of doc-makers.

BMO-DOC Vanguard Award is generously supported by the Bank of Montreal. 


Toronto-based Lisa Jackson is an Anishinaabe filmmaker (Aamjiwnaang) whose documentary and fiction films and VR work have garnered two Canadian Screen Awards, been nominated for a Webby, broadcast widely, and screened at top festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW, Berlinale, and Hot Docs. Indictment: The Crimes of Shelly Chartier is one of CBC’s top watched docs and her newly launched company Door Number 3 Productions has a strong slate built on her reputation for quality accessible work. She has an MFA from York University, isa well-known advocate for Indigenous screen sovereignty, and an alumna of TIFF Talent and Writers Labs, IDFA Summer School, and CFC Directors Lab. Playback Magazine named her one of Ten to Watch. See more at